Forwarded from Anthony (reply to Yoshie)

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at
Thu Dec 14 19:03:00 MST 2000

On Thu, 14 Dec 2000 20:03:00 -0500 Louis Proyect <lnp3 at> writes:
> Hi Lou!
> To Yoshie:
> I agree with you that the French ruling class(es?) were seriously
> divided
> on the eve of the French revolution.
> In your opinion can any ruling class be seriously divided in
> circumstances
> less than prerevolutionary?

Sure why not?  Back in the 1930s did not the US ruling class
divide over support for the New Deal with one section backing
the New Deal as necessary for saving capitalism while other
sections of the ruling class opposed it on the grounds that
it opened the door for a gradual socialisation of the economy.
This conflict within the ruling class was not of a revolutionary
nature but it did help to make possible gains for popular movements.

> I ask the question because you cite only the most extreme case.
> I think that the divisions within the ruling class of the United
> States are
> serious - but not so serious that they can not maintain their unity
> for the
> sake of continued joint plunder of the world.

That sounds about right.

> I am interested in figuring out the exact nature of the conflicts
> within
> the bourgeoisie of the United States - I can not claim to fully
> understand
> them.
> Some of them are obvious - energy policy and Alaska is one case
> where the
> oil companies are looking to make a quick buck and other segments
> want to
> go slow.
> Arms spending is another area of difference - Clinton et al are the
> real
> balanced budget pushers - while the Bush crowd favor a miltary
> Keynsianism.
> Who controls appointments and patronage - particularly to the
> Supreme Court
> is another area of obvious difference.
> None of these differences - on the surface - seems to be serious
> enough to
> push them into an all out political struggle where they start to
> mobilize
> popular masses behind each other to slug it out.

I suspect that end of the Cold War has much to do with this.
Since the ruling class no longer feels itself to be seriously
threantened by any outside forces, they seem to have lost
some of their old inhibitions against openly duking it out
with each other.  Although there were some very bitter
recriminations back in 1960 over that year's presidential
race, there was much more of an effort back then to maintain
a united front against perceived enemies (i.e. the socialist bloc).

> However, they came much, much closer to such tactics against each
> other
> than anyone thought possible in the recently concluded election.
> The Republicans organized gangs of thugs in Florida to intimidate
> the
> ballot counters in Dade county. And they did a lot more for months
> earlier
> to steal the election.
> So, granted this rift is not on the scale of the one before the
> French
> revolution - and granted that the United States is not on the edge -
> and
> not near the edge - of a social revolution -

I don't think that anybody is arguing that.

> Don't you think there appears to be a more serious internal conflict
> than
> anyone thought before the election?

Well there was that whole impeachment episode.  Does anybody
seriously think that the sleeping habits of Bill Clinton were
the real issue there?

> Don't you think that offers opportunity for the left to make
> advances int
> he next period?
> Even if they are smaller than, say a socialist revolution?
> And don't you think the marxists intellectuals on this list should
> investigate the nature of this unexpected conflict withint the
> bourgeoisie
> of the United States to find out what's up?

Sure,  Marx after all commended the workers movement of his
day for successfully exploiting divisions within the ruling class
(for example those between industrial capital and landed
capital, as well as divisions within the industrial capitalists)
to win significant reforms for workers.  We should be willing
likewise to take advantage of whatever divisions might exist
within today's ruling class and attempt to to whatever extent
is possible to exploit them on behalf of popular forces.

> When Nixon's plumbers were caught breaking into the Democratic Party
> headquarters in the Watergate building in Washington D.C., it didn't
> cause
> a big stir the first day, or the first week. But two years later he
> was
> forced to resign.

Indeed.  The US ruling class was then divided over several major
issues including particularly the Vietnam War.  One section of
the ruling class though that given the unexpectedly strong
resistance of the Vietcong & North Vietnamese, it would be
better if they cut their losses and pulled out.  Other sections
of the ruling class opposed this on the grounds that this
would be perceived by their enemies as a defeat for US
imperialism and thus would give confidence to the enemies
of the ruling class.  This conflict within the ruling class  over
the proper management of imperialism created
an opening which the antiwar & other popular movements
were able to take advantage of.  The whole Watergate episode
was the culmination of this conflict which had been brewing
since at least the mid-1960s.

> Political crises within the ruling class do not emerge fully grown -
> they
> often develop behind the scenes for years before they come into
> public view.

Most such crises are unlikely to be of a revolutionary or
a pre revolutionary nature but we shouldn't shrink from
attempting to take advantage of them whenever possible.
Also, we should keep in mind that on occasion such conflicts
can spiral out of control as the antagonists within the ruling
class find themselves pursuing short term advantage in ways
that undercut their long term interests.  Not even the ruling
class is immune to the implications of the Prisoners Dilemma
of game theory.

> I appreciate the fact that you answered my previous question, and
> hope you
> will answer the ones I ahve just posted.
> Anthony
> Louis Proyect
> Marxism mailing list:

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